Picnic recipes: the best pasta salad ever

A pasta salad popped out of a friend’s picnic bag at a wine tasting picnic I was at last weekend and it was delicious – just the right combo of saltiness (feta), crunchiness (cucumber) and soft creaminess (av0). Since then I’ve been so into pasta salads – they’re perfect for an easy dinner, cold lunch and of course, picnics. This is my ultimate pasta salad, but you can always add all manner of other goodies to this basic recipe.

 

Serves 6 generously

500 g small pasta shells
1 cucumber, chopped into smallish pieces
500 g rosa or cherry tomatoes, halves
2 mielies, cooked (I do this in the microwave) and kernels removed
Half a packed of black olives, pitted and chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped into small pieces
1 red pepper, chopped into small pieces
120 g feta, chopped into small squares

Dressing:
Wholegrain mustard
Canola or olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Pinch of sugar

Cook the pasta and let it cool in a colander. Once it’s cooled down, pour into a large bowl and mix in all the ingredients. To make the dressing, combine about three tablespoons of oil with one or two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon of mustard, a pinch of sugar and lots of black pepper and shake up in a jam jar. These are not exact measurements though –  add more oil, vinegar or mustard to your taste. To transport the salad for a picnic, I keep the dressing in the jar and pour it on only when we get there.

Mexican bean chilli with corn rice

What’s a vegetarian cooking blog without a bean recipe? I don’t actually eat a lot of beans but when I do I always make  Mexican-inspired dish. This bean chilli is ridiculously simple and it’s really cheap to make too. I like the addition of corn rice, but I often have it with plain brown rice or tacos. It’s all about the condiments with this dish – make sure you have plenty of avo, fresh coriander, sour cream or smooth cream cheese, and fresh limes or lemons.

mexican bean chilli

Serves 5

400 g courgettes, chopped
600 g fresh tomatoes, chopped finely (you can use canned if you prefer – just use two tins)
6 spring onions, chopped
1 tin of kidney beans, drained and rinsed well
1 tin of butter beans, drained and rinsed well
1 onion, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp crushed garlic
2 tsp chilli flakes (less if you don’t like heat)
1 lemon or 2 limes
A handful of fresh coriander
1 cup brown rice
4 corncobs
1 tsp oregano
olive oil
Avo, smooth cottage cheese or sour cream, and more fresh coriander, to serve

Start off by making the rice. In a large pot heat a slug of olive oil for a few seconds and then add the rice. Add 3 cups of water and bring to the boil. Add the oregano, turn down the heat and let the rice simmer with the lid on for about 35 minutes, without stirring. Slice the corn off the cobs and add to the rice after 30 minutes. Cook for 5 minutes with the lid on and then turn the heat off but leave the pan on the stove for a further 5 minutes, also covered.

For the bean chilli, fry the onion until soft in some olive oil. Add the courgettes, spices and garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes until the courgettes start to get soft. Add the tomatoes and turn the heat up. Let it cook away until the tomatoes have turned mushy and you can crush them easily. Turn the heat down a bit, add the beans and cook for a further ten minutes before putting in the chopped yellow pepper. Cook for about five minutes more.

Serve the bean chilli on the rice with chopped spring onions and fresh coriander on top.